They’re our friends, our co-workers, our partners, and our family members. Here, they’re simply known as PrEP Heroes.
Think your day is busy? Think again. PrEP Heroes are on duty 24/7, fighting aggressive viruses, negative stigmas, and uninformed stereotypes in an effort to change the face of HIV. Their bodies are symbols of strength, shielding the rest of us from deadly threats that lurk around every dark corner.
Working around the clock to protect themselves and others through a daily preventative treatment, these heroes are committed to stopping the transmission of HIV, forever changing the fate of hundreds — and history as we know it — with a single empowered choice.
PROTECT YOUR COMMUNITY.
PROTECT YOUR FUTURE.
Armed with a unique coat of armor and superpowers, these heroes have turned their HIV-negative status into a positive force for good, working together to build a wall of resistance between the virus and those at risk.It only takes one choice, one commitment, and one hero to change your destiny.
I was surprised – and glad – to see firsthand how far we’ve gotten when it comes to HIV prevention.
I first learned about it in 2013. Since then, it’s impacted my approach by adding an added level of safety from current methods of prevention.
A hero is someone that understands the responsibility that comes with freedom.
I want to help educate others the best way I possibly can.
By encouraging an open channel of communication and knowledge between peers. You cannot open a book without learning something.
First, talk to your doctor, but also consider opinions from other legitimate sources.
My first reaction was disbelief. Even though we live in a time where science is changing and advancing, it still seemed like such a huge step in an incredible direction that I couldn’t believe it. I’ve always doubted its ability and feared side effects. I’m very, very happy to have been proven wrong!
I first learned about PrEP through social media and the news. Then I had two friends who began using it, which was my first personal exposure to it. Both of them were open and honest about their choices and experience beginning PrEP, which made me feel more comfortable about considering it.
My mother. To me, a hero is someone who shows strength and courage through life, but also balances it with a beautiful and sincere amount of compassion.
Going on PrEP was a very big decision for me. Now that I’m on it, I can’t imagine not having made the choice. While we live in a scary world, we also live in one that’s advanced in many ways. The PrEP shaming that still happens is ridiculous. It’s the same kind of shaming women experienced when birth control was created. But people need to realize that PrEP is a smart choice you can make for your community.
Break the silence. Talk about your fears and your experiences, and be open to listening to others. Challenge those who say or do things that contribute to the stigma. Don’t be a silent witness. As a community that’s already dealt with hardship, hatred, and discrimination, we don’t need to turn on ourselves. Treat everyone with respect and empathy, and treat those who are HIV-Positive as real human beings not defined by a disease.
Do it. Be your own PrEP Hero.
“Wow!” was my first reaction. It is a true scientific breakthrough with so much potential to change the story of HIV, just as the introduction of the first antiretroviral medications did years ago. Until now, the fight has been focused on treating HIV, and we’ve made miraculous fronts on that end. This is the first time a major stride towards prevention of HIV has been made within the medical community, and I cannot wait to see the benefits – socially and medically – it will offer all sexually active persons, regardless of serostatus.
I learned about PrEP shortly after the media began to talk about the promising, yet controversial, results of the iPREX trial, and the FDA approval of Truvada for this purpose. At that time, I spoke in depth with a wonderful friend and mentor who is a primary care physician with special interest in HIV and LGBT health. He certainly influenced my decision to not only start the medication and take control of my sexual health, but also feel confident in being an advocate for the use of PrEP.
A hero is anyone who shows courage in the face of adversity. You can be a hero for yourself or for others, with the smallest deed to the biggest accomplishment. Most importantly, everyone can be a hero in their own way. Normally I try to avoid cliches, but everyone needs a little Mariah Carey in their life, and I trust her when she sings, “a hero lies in you."
There are two main reasons why advocating for PrEP is important to me. First and foremost, I believe in its potential. Its potential to fight the stigma posed on HIV-Positive men and women, to empower sexually active men and women to take control of their own health, and to reduce or even eliminate the spread of HIV. Secondly, PrEP is in desperate need of advocates. Unlike many medical breakthroughs and preventative strategies, PrEP, and its users, faced criticism from the beginning. People who used the medication are stigmatized and stereotyped, rather than supported for taking steps to protect the health of themselves and their communities. This is wrong, and history has taught us that the only way to combat this is by openly expressing support for PrEP, and giving it the positive voice it deserves.
I think PrEP is a great start. Many of these stigmas associated with HIV come from a place of fear that is rooted in the frightening history of the disease. There are plenty of other STIs out there, but they don't carry the same stigma because they do not have the same consequences. I think this stigma has already improved dramatically with effective treatment for HIV and the understanding of the "undetectable" status, but we have a long way to go. For now, the focus needs to be on delivering messages about HIV prevention and sexual health in a positive light, instead of a scary one. By doing so, we can move away from separating communities by serostatus, and instead focus on bringing them together to keep everyone healthy.
I would advise them to educate themselves about the medication as best as they can. Whether that means talking to friends who are using it, or reading about in on *reliable* websites, try to get the answers to all the questions you have. It is of course preferable to see a physician who is knowledgeable about PrEP, but not everyone has access to this type of provider. It is important, especially as PrEP is still relatively new, to be your own advocate when you feel PrEP is right for you.
I wasn’t sure what to think about it – there was so much information, both good and bad.
I think I first heard of PrEP a few years ago, in an article I’d read. The only impact to my approach to HIV prevention for me is that I no longer fear transmission like I did back in the 80s and 90s.
A hero is someone that always stands up for what’s right, no matter the consequences.
Being a PrEP hero is a way of giving back to the many fans that I have, a way to show them that this is a powerful form of protection that should feel empowering.
Having open and honest discussions where we can teach young people how to protect themselves.
I would advise everyone to ask as many questions as needed to get the right answers.
I was surprised and intrigued. It inspired hope that we are getting closer each day to a full-on cure.
A hero is someone who defies normal limitations in order to serve the community around them. Heroes are harbingers of social justice, equity, and transcendent truth. They prevail in purveying goodness and kindness, while demonstrating selflessness and strength. Heroes, although ordinary in form, show extraordinary character and are willing to challenge ideas, customs, and social hegemony in their efforts to introduce auspicious realities and shift paradigms to bring hope to all people.
I believe that people are empowered with knowledge, and that knowledge can only be attained via education. As a PrEP Hero, I hope to inspire others to learn more about PrEP’s “power” and benefits. I want people to know that they, too, can transcend the norm and live above life’s limitations.
It’s all about cultivating paradigm-shifting conversations. In essence, we have to promote TRUE HIV awareness, which isn’t about “sickness”. True awareness gives people an understanding of what HIV really is, including the impact modern medicine has had on the treatment and prevention of it. Our language also has to change, so that we can stop ascribing denigrating terms to people who have HIV. Let’s develop a syntax that empowers people who have HIV while honoring them as people. No one is a pariah. Everyone can be a hero.
Understand that this treatment is meant to further responsible sexual practices, and that it should be used by someone who is at risk of infection. PrEP is not a cure, but it is a gateway towards bridging people on each end of the HIV spectrum. PrEP kicks down barriers between those who are HIV-positive and HIV-negative, allowing us to develop affirming relationships with partners we would not have felt liberated to bond with sexually prior to PrEP’s existence.
When I first heard about PrEP, I was honestly surprised that there wasn’t a bigger reaction from the general public. I thought that a regimen that could actually prevent the spread of such a terrible disease would receive more acclaim.
I first learned about PrEP from a friend. It has really made me think about being more careful when it comes to sexual conduct -- and how my actions affect others.
A hero is someone that stands up for something they believe is right, no matter the opinion of others. Someone who can unapologetically stand behind their cause without regret and without excuses is a hero to me.
Being a PrEP Hero is important because I get the opportunity to do my part to create a safer environment for my community.
By letting people know that HIV is still a big issue that we all need to be responsible for, regardless of race or sexual orientation. It’s everyone’s responsibility.
Talk to your doctor to see if it’s a match for you and your lifestyle.
I learned about PrEP during the trials at the University of Pennsylvania. I had a few friends that participated and were very vocal about the benefits. I was happy to hear about something that could help stop the spread of HIV in all communities, especially the ones I was part of. I was very glad that another option was soon to become available to prevent HIV.
When it became available, I started PrEP after a few conversations with my healthcare provider and decided it would be a smart addition to my current sexual health routine. The approach to HIV prevention has stayed constant throughout my life, through routine testing, preventative measures, and informed decisions.
A hero can be something different at various occasions, or calls to duty, but generally I see it as someone who has displayed courage and integrity to go above what is normally expected. From Marines to Moms, everyone has the capacity to become a hero.
Being a part of the PrEP Hero campaign was important because it was an opportunity to show diversity in communities where HIV and LGBT intersect. I am a man who is queer and trans, and I wanted the chance for other trans men who have sex with other men who may be considering PrEP to know they aren’t alone. I have a variety of tastes in genders, including gay and bisexual men, and a campaign like this is exposed to many of those men in NYC, making it the perfect opportunity to show that bodies of all gender expressions can be visible, informed, and sexy. All kinds of men can be PrEP superheroes, and superhoes can be quite hot!
We can stop throwing stones from glass houses. I have heard way too many people stigmatize behaviors believed to be prevalent in the HIV/AIDS and HIV-Positive community that may actually mirror behaviors in their own, which comes from a lack of information.
Don’t let PrEP run your sex life, let YOU run your sex life on PrEP. It’s a safety belt for HIV, but you can still go crashing through the metaphorical windshield of other STIs if you throw caution to the wind. I would say evaluate your sexual practices, and if PrEP feels like something you should do, do it. I would recommend what I do for myself: routine STI testing and whatever preventative combinations (including PrEP and condoms) works for their life.
No way. I’ll just use condoms, thanks!
I learned about PrEP in 2013. At first, I was very skeptical. As it was covered more and more by the media, and as more and more friends turned to PrEP as a method of safe sex, I was convinced. I started taking PrEP as a method of safe sex in January 2015.
I define a hero as someone I can look to for inspiration, guidance, and an example for a particular idea, craft, or talent I’m interested in.
To me, PrEP is brilliant. I want all my friends to be on it. I’m very proud to openly say that I’m on PrEP and yes, sometimes I do have bareback sex, and yes, I do consider that safe sex as far as HIV prevention is concerned. People need to know the facts that PrEP sex is safe sex.
We can reiterate that HIV is a virus and not a person, and that PrEP is about virus protection. PrEP is not about a bareback lifestyle or promiscuity -- it’s a science-based, personal decision on how an individual wants to practice HIV prevention.
I would advise them to seek out a reputable gay health clinic in their city. Or, if they don’t have one, call a neighboring city and find out if they have a doctor recommendation in the city they reside. A lot of healthcare providers are still very biased towards not prescribing PrEP, so be aware. Living in Harlem, it was hard for me to find a doctor who didn’t scold me for wanting to take to it.
Inspired by our PrEP Heroes who were shot in a studio by Mike Ruiz, Seth staged his own hero shoot (with help!) in order to participate in this campaign.
I was in awe that they created such a medication.
I learned about PrEP about a year ago from social media. It has educated me more about HIV and how it can and cannot be transmitted.
A hero is someone that is willing to do the hard job for the greater good. They are selfless.
Someone needs to be the face of this movement and show the community that this is a personal issue.
Give the public a face to put to the movement towards a cure. It makes the issue more personal so it doesn't feel so scary.
Do your research. And it's your own personal choice. Listen to your doctor. Other people will have opinions as well but what matters is what you want. Not them.
PrEP is an acronym for Pre-exposure prophylaxis. “Prophylaxis” is a medical term that means preventing or controlling an infection before it has a chance to spread.
PrEP is for those who are HIV-negative and sexually active but are still concerned about exposing themselves to the virus through multiple partners and the inconsistent use of condoms. PrEP is not only for those that identify as gay or bisexual, either. In fact, discordant couples (one person is HIV-Positive, one person is HIV-negative) also use PrEP to avoid transmitting the virus with each other. For couples that are trying to conceive, PrEP also works to prevent the infection being passed on to the baby.
Think of it as your secret virus-fighting superpower!
With the right regimen for your body, PrEP defends your immune system from the damaging effects of HIV, should you be exposed to it in the future. By commitment to PrEP and staying adherent, you can prevent HIV from taking hold of your body, while also preventing transmission to others.
Although it’s a common misconception, PrEP does not contain HIV. The medication, taken as a once-daily pill, contains two powerful antiretrovirals that work together to block an HIV enzyme, thereby preventing more copies to appear in the blood.
Taken consistently, those who adhere to a PrEP regimen, and use condoms, can protect themselves from HIV with over 90% effectiveness.
When it comes to preventing the spread of HIV, the more prevention methods you use, the less chance there is of spreading the virus to yourself and to others.
PrEP works best if used in combination with other methods like condoms. Even heroes can get caught up in the moment, so having a second plan of attack is the best method to staying free from HIV.
Condoms are effective in preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases that are commonly spread through bodily fluids, such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and hepatitis. To prevent exposure to HIV and STDs, be sure to pair consistent condom usage with your PrEP regimen.
No — PrEP is not a cure for HIV. However, PrEP is a step in the right direction towards ending the spread of the virus in your body and the bodies of those in your community. PrEP works as a proactive approach to ending the transmission of HIV, working in your defense to prevent infection. When you make the choice to follow a PrEP plan, you’re creating a cascading effect that blocks the power of AIDS and prevents disease transmission.
While everyone’s experience with PrEP is different, the most common side effects include headache, stomach-area (abdomen) pain, and decreased weight. These side effects should subside once your treatment becomes routine. However, if side effects persist, talk to your doctor.
First, you should sign up to get tested for HIV at a Housing Works Community Health Center near you. Once you’re tested as HIV-negative, your provider will ask you some questions about your body, your daily routine, and your risk factors to determine the best treatment plan for you. Once you and your provider reach an agreement, you’ll receive a prescription for PrEP and can begin taking it daily.
Housing Works Community Healthcare will work with you to ensure affordable ongoing access to PrEP medication. Feel free to Contact Us with any questions you might have about accessibility and affordability.
Do your best to find a doctor that you feel comfortable speaking with. You may want to research clinics that specialize with the LGBT population including Housing Works Community Healthcare Centers. These specialists can speak to you about sexual health and PrEP honestly and openly. If there isn’t a clinic near you, try calling another neighboring city’s health clinics to get a doctor recommendation.
More and more people are talking about PrEP openly, proudly, and in a non-stigmatized way. If anything, PrEP is less of a secret and more of a point of pride, a symbol that shows you take you and your partner's health seriously. Before sex with your partner(s), you may wish to share your experience with PrEP to put them at ease and let them know that you’ve minimized their risk of HIV transmission (and vice versa). You never know who might need a hero — by talking about PrEP, you could become theirs.
A hero does everything in their power to prevent the spread of HIV, including putting themselves first to receive protection against HIV. When you commit to a PrEP regimen, not only are you preventing the virus from spreading throughout your body, but you’re protecting your friends, neighbors, partners and community – and helping to bring an end to the AIDS epidemic.
Housing Works Community Healthcare offers PrEP services including comprehensive medical visits, patient education and HIV testing. PrEP is available to all eligible community members regardless of insurance or ability to pay.
Talk to us:
Akamziocha “Aka” Dike, PrEP Community Outreach Specialist firstname.lastname@example.org 347-578-3252
Stephanie Frierson, Nursing and PrEP Care Coordinator email@example.com 347-236-7925
NYC Department of Health's microsite dedicated to PrEP and PEP education
Information from the Department of Health about PrEP
Housing Works Community Healthcare fosters good health and positive social change through empowerment, innovation, and collaboration. We provide high-quality integrated medical care and other essential services that improve overall community well-being.
PrEP Heroes is a new multi-media campaign, drawing attention to the proven success of PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) as an amazing new HIV prevention tool. Shot by celebrity and fashion photographer Mike Ruiz, with nine models serving as spokesmen for the success of their PrEP regimen, the campaign exists to highlight the heroism of those who protect themselves as well as their community from HIV exposure through diligent use of treatment and medications.